Monday, September 10, 2007

Day of the Child

Honduras celebrates September 10 as Día del Niño, the Day of the Child. I spent most of the morning at the kindergarten in Colonia Divina Providencia which I has been visiting about once every two weeks. the kindergarten is named after Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, our bishop.

The kindergarten has over 45 children with only one teacher and an aide. Usually one of the Spanish Franciscan sisters helps each day and for about three months about five high school students are helping as part of their studies. There is also a young woman who has helping a bit the past few weeks. The teacher, Miriam, is incredible. Not only does she try to teach all these kids, but she tries to make sure that they get something to eat every day, even if only cookies

The children are extremely active – tremendos, they say here. Some are from houses of Aldeas Infantiles, which provides a home atmosphere for abandoned children in about 16 homes; others come from a nearby very poor neighborhood, called Colonia Divina Providencia. They have lived in poverty and desperation for most of their short lives; those from the colonia live in the midst of poverty, crime, and even prostitution and alcoholism. With the help of some people, including Sor Inés, the colonia got water about a year ago and is just now getting electricity. They have gotten land for a casa communal, a community center, which they can then use for meetings as well as for workshops for the community.

Today the kindergarten was wilder than usual. The bishop had sent some money for a meal and cakes. But there were two piñatas ready for the kids to break open and rush like mad to get the candy. But soon a group of police arrived (complete with television cameras) with more piñatas and lots of candy. So the kids broke open two more piñatas. Some kids had bags of candy to take home. The police had also distributed cakes and soda which they had brought.

The kids were almost calming down when another group arrived with a piñata, the local Lions Club. But the teacher decided to wait until tomorrow to break open that piñata. But she did decide to give the children the lunch – rice, tortillas, salad, and a piece of chicken. I thought the kids wouldn’t be hungry, but most of them ate all their food.

I was thinking as all the people arrived with piñatas: It’s great that people think about kids today, but what of the other 364 days of the year? Many of these children don’t have enough food to eat each day. Also, today the kindergarten had no water!

Recognizing the need for something more, Bishop Santos has had the dream of setting up a comedor for the street children and children who don’t get enough to eat. He has talked with me and I decided to help with setting up this “tortilla kitchen” in a building on the grounds of the diocese. I am meeting with several Hondurans to get this started. The first need is to repair and renovate the place where we hope to put the comedor. There is a small store on the diocesan grounds whose profits might be used to help buy the needed food. But we’ll have to see about funding for the renovation and to get the project set up.

So, as you can read, I am slowly getting involved in some projects – trying to be at the service of those most in need.

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